Robin Morris has been an incredibly important member of Top Trail since 2015. It has been a true pleasure getting to know Robin and Beau through the years. Their ride reports inspire and encourage us to get out and ride. When we want to go out and ride but the weather is rather depressing, we can say to ourselves, “What would Robin do?” and the answer is: if it’s not raining, sleeting, or snowing, and the footing is okay — layer up and saddle up! It’s amazing what a trip down the trail with your equine can do for your soul, mind, body, and spirit.
Top Trail partners, SpecTACKular and Montana Silversmiths, sponsored the 2019 year end awards for the rider and equine with the most trail miles logged. We can’t thank them enough for their partnership and generosity.
No one can tell their story better than Robin so I asked her to summarize 2019 the best she could. Much happened—many beautiful sights were seen, lessons learned, trails cleared, as well as a deepening of the bond between Robin and her beloved mule. Here’s just a taste of what it’s like to live and tackle the trail in Montana with your best partner in the world …
Trail riding is my passion. My mule Beau and I have been steady partners for 5 ½ years and members of Top Trail for the past four years. I have logged every mile with a GPS device since I first swung a leg over Beau on June 16, 2014. It’s been a great ride. As 2019 came to an end, Beau and I had logged 12,289.15 miles — an amount that even catches me by surprise. It was time well spent making memories I will cherish the rest of my life.
I ride 12-months out of the year, and have a very flexible job (I work for myself). Many of my riding partners don’t or are unable to get away, consequently over 50% of my rides are solo. Rides will take me anywhere from our Ranch, to the county roads to the Forest and Wilderness areas. While I dearly love being joined by my “tougher-than-nails” riding partners, I equally enjoy riding alone as it allows me to focus on Beau, my riding and all that surrounds us.
With all of the miles I am able to log many folks assume that I am trotting down the county road on a gaited animal, averaging 10 mph or more. In reality, Beau and I average 3.3 mph and our travels include trails with elevation ascents ranging from 400’ to over 5,500’. That’s a climb. Add to that the severity and narrow-nature of many of the trails we relish, and one can quickly understand the importance of slow and steady.
Riding in this manner didn’t happen overnight. We took our time getting legged up and conditioned to take on arduous and long rides. Conditioning for riding elevations that exceed 10,000’, for both the human and the equine, takes time. Likewise, 30+ mile rides can take the wind out of many horses and put blisters on unconditioned riders.
Not all of my rides are about riding. I am equally passionate about keeping public trails open and accessible by lending a hand. As an active member of the Beartooth Back Country Horsemen, located in Fishtail, Montana, trips into the Forest and Wilderness after the winter melt-off focus on clearing downfall and reporting rockslides to the Forest Service to address. We are able to use chainsaws to clear downfall in the Forest — but in the Wilderness, it is hand tools only, which I prefer. There is nothing sweeter than clearing a trail 6-10 miles in and then riding it out! Plus, the workout feels so good when realized in the beauty that only nature can provide. I carry loppers, a small handsaw and a 3 ½’, cross-cut saw on my saddle. With one person on each end of my cross-cut, we can make quick work of most trees blocking the trails.
Join Robin and Beau and start logging your trails today — who knows how far you will go? START HERE
This past year, just before the Memorial Day Holiday, we came across a microburst that left quaking aspen shrapnel and boulders, 4¼ miles in, covering 1/10th of a mile along the popular Stillwater Trail out of Nye. That section was virtually impassable. Two work trips later, some blasting coordinated by the Forest Service and the trail was back open before the Holiday. Our Back Country Horsemen’s Chapter serve as the stewards for this trail, so it was important to get it done!
Additionally, I love spending time on the trail with Beau and Aghy, my small mixed breed dog. Although very active, Aghy brings a calmness to the trail. When she leads, Beau relaxes as if to say — “you get eaten first.” His ears relax, he drops his head and it is obvious he has delegated the role of “protector” to the little dog. This past year, Aghy logged 632 miles. She wears a backpack that carries her own GPS device, and always logs more miles than me and Beau.
Miles Logged on Beau
- 2014: 848.06
- 2015: 2,188.58
- 2016: 2,302.749
- 2017: 2,062.3388
- 2018: 2,314.056
- 2019: 2,573.371
- Lifetime*: 12,289.15
Close call. Close call. Given the miles Beau and I have accumulated, it was probably just a question of when something would happen. Until September 2, 2019. we had never experienced what could have been a life-threatening situation. On that day, fellow member of Top Trail, Connie LeHocky, and I headed to the Dead Indian Trail to go riding and camping for several days. The Trailhead is north of Cody, Wyoming on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. After parking and settling in, we took off for a 16-mile ride.
Unbeknownst to us, one portion of the trail was washed out from spring/summer rains. I stepped off of Beau to climb up and try to locate a “go-around.” He followed me. As it was high, you couldn’t see what was on top until you were there. Beau leapt up and landed in an area that was corrugated with solid strips of land and deep mud bogs in between. I quickly realized we wouldn’t be taking this loop and while trying to get him turned around he landed in a deeper bog — without the solid strips.
He was facing uphill, buried in mud from his shoulders to his tail with all four legs completely submersed. The only part of Beau on solid ground was from his neck up. Connie had dismounted below while I scouted out our options. I called for her to take Beau’s lead rope so I could push and motivate from behind. He made a few attempts before she got there. I could tell it would take great effort on his part to get out of this. We were 8 miles from camp, in the Wilderness — alone. I removed his crupper and bridle and handed over his lead rope. He was calm and simply looked at me as if to say “don’t worry.” I just kept telling him “you’ve got this Beau.” He made little progress and it appeared that he was sinking even deeper.
The vision of his tail laying on top of the mud was horrible. After 3-4 failed attempts, we allowed him to rest for a few moments then I increased the pressure and he bounded out in his final two attempts. I was so proud of his determination, sheer sense of preservation and athleticism. He dug deep for this win. Beau and I were able to pull things together, without panicking, by focusing on the task at hand. Getting him to safety.
Once back at camp, I spent 45 minutes in the creek with Beau sponging him off, loving him, cleaning my tack, boots — everything, and simply basking in his company, safely by my side. Fortunately, he was no worse for the wear and had but one tiny scrape on one of his legs. He acted as if nothing significant had happened. What did I learn? Trails wash out and need to be fully assessed, before allowing our beloved trail partners to follow us. I naively thought there would be solid footing above the washout. The image of Beau immersed in that mud bog will stay with me forever.
2019 Fun Stats
- Rode: 2,573.371 miles
- Trailered Beau: 4,839 miles
- Time in the saddle: 882 hours
- Highest Elevation: 10,647’
- Fastest Speed: Just 15.4 mph
- 53% of my rides were solo
- 30% of my rides included my BRF, Jody
The following day Beau was no worse for the wear. We were able to ride 28 miles of beautiful country – but looked at “mud” in a different light. Of course, Connie still insisted on Beau taking the lead where mud was involved.
2019 Riding Goals. The year started with great riding weather. With a full winter coat, I prefer the cooler temperatures so Beau won’t overheat, and the non-windy, full of sunshine days for my comfort. The stars aligned and our prayers were answered — allowing us to log 259 miles in January.
On February 2, we hit a huge milestone — our 10,000th miles! The rest of the February was “winter,” dropping our monthly total to 105 miles. On November 18th, we reached 12,000 miles.
At the start of each year, I set my goals for Top Trail. I wanted to log 2,400 miles on Beau, and for my “Double Trouble” partner, Jody Seyler, and I to collectively log 4,000 miles. In Double Trouble, you team up with your BRF (Best Riding Friend) and your combined rider mileage is used to compete against the other teams. You do not have to ride together to participate. I surpassed my personal goal with 2,573.371 miles, and Jody and I reached our Double Trouble goal with 4,017.89 miles.
Beau and I both stayed healthy and sound — that’s a good thing given the hours spent on the trail. Beau is coming 14, and I am coming 62. With the exception of the Double Trouble challenge, I am truly not competing against the other riders.
My riding and the time I spend with Beau, doing what we love is personal. I know life is fragile. The older you get, the more you are reminded. I can only hope that others will be inspired to enjoy what they can, while they can. As my husband often tells me, life is too precious and too short not to.
~Robin Morris and Beau